Monday, May 27, 2013

Handicapping UCSB vs. Texas A & M

On paper, the two opponents in the opening game of the Corvallis, Oregon Regionals of the NCAA baseball tournament appear evenly matched.  Both No. 2 seed Texas A & M and No. 3 seed UCSB snuck in as at-large selections.

The Aggies hit .270 as a team, and their pitching staff allowed opponents to bat .254.  The Aggies had a .370 slugging % (opponents had a .343 slugging %), and a .341 on-base % (opponents had a .330 on-base %).

The Gauchos batted .280, while opponents batted .266.  The Gauchos had a slugging % of .370 (opponents had a .380 slugging %), and a .361 on-base % (opponents had a .351 on-base %).

On defense, the Aggies had a .973 fielding %, and opponents had a .967 fielding %.

The Gauchos had a .974 fielding %, while opponents had a .966 fielding %.

The Aggies' pitching staff had an ERA of 3.42, with opponents posting a 3.84 ERA.  The pitching staff struck out 381 batters and walked 166.  Aggie hitters struck out 389 times and walked 168.

The Gauchos' pitching had a 3.99 ERA, and opponents allowed an ERA of 4.78.  Gaucho pitchers struck out 352 and walked 189.  Gaucho batters struck out 315 times and walked 163.

Top Aggie hitters include Mikey Reynolds (.343 BA), Cole Lankford (.332), and Troy Stein (.299).  Stein leads with five home runs, while Lankford has knocked in 34 runs, but the Aggies boast seven other batters with at least 19 RBI's.

Likely starters for the Aggies are Parker Ray (1-1, 1.83 ERA), Daniel Mengden (8-3, 1.84 ERA), and Rafael Pineda (5-5, 3.14 ERA).  Their closer is Jason Jester (3-3, 13 saves, 2.32 ERA).

Top Gaucho hitters include Rob Nesovic (.343), Woody Woodward (.335), Joey Epperson (.317), Cameron Newell (.313), and Tyler Kuresa (.304).  Kuresa leads with five home runs, followed by Brandon Trinkwon and Nesovic with four each.  Kuresa also leads the Gauchos in RBI's (45), followed by Brandon Trinkwon (35), Nesovic (33) and Woodward (33).

Likely starters for the Gauchos are Austin Pettibone (9-3, 3.11 ERA), Justin Jacome (5-4, 3.86 ERA), and Rob Nesovic (4-3, 4.76 ERA).  Set up pitcher Greg Mahle has a 7 - 4 record and ERA of 4.03.  Closer Dylan Hecht has a record of 0-2, eight saves, and a 1.93 ERA.

Overall, both teams manufacture runs by being aggressive on the base paths, while limiting opponents' stolen bases.  Gaucho catcher Jackson Morrow has thrown out many would-be base-stealers, as Gaucho opponents have stolen 34 bases but have been caught 32 times.

This match up will come down to pitching.  Gaucho pitchers struggle when they have control problems, but are dominant when they get ahead on the count.  The Gaucho offense is adept at scoring runs even without the long ball, and while they tend to be over-aggressive with base-running, that aggression more often than not pays off in extending rallies.

Prediction:  Gauchos sneak out a 6 - 4 win, with Pettibone getting to the 6th inning with a 4-3 lead, Mahle limiting additional damage to one run, and Hecht slamming the door in the 9th to earn another save.

Game time at Goss Stadium is noon on Friday.

UCSB Baseball Earns NCAA Regional Berth

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview with Coach Joey Ramirez on Zalmico Harmon

Joey Ramirez is the Ventura College Head Coach for the men's basketball team.  He just completed his second year as the head coach at Ventura College, after two years as an assistant.  He led the Pirates to two State Playoffs appearances and the Western State Conference championship this past season.  Along with Ventura College Women's Basketball Head Coach Ned Mercetic, Ramirez runs the We Play Hard Basketball Camp in the summer.

Coach Ramirez also had the privilege of coaching 2013 UCSB signee Zalmico Harmon at Ventura.

Gaucho Hoops (GH):  Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Ramirez--Gaucho fans will appreciate it.

Coach Joey Ramirez (JR):  Sure, no problem.  I've been busy with finals and the school year ending, and organizing the offseason basketball activities.

GH:  First off, tell us what to expect from Ventura this upcoming season.

JR:  We've lost some talented players due to graduation, but we have three sophomores returning, so I'm hopeful we'll be competitive again.

GH:  Let's talk about Zalmico Harmon.   Whose game does Zalmico resemble the most?

JR:  I'd have to go with Chris Paul (not that he's at the same level).  He's a leader who can score as needed, plays great on-ball defense, and is a pass-first point guard.  The important thing is, since he's been here, he's worked on expanding his range on offense--his perimeter jumper.  He knocked down 38% of his 3-point shots.  He shot in the mid-80's at the free throw line--he's always been consistent there.  Zalmico also has the ability to get into the paint, because he is so strong.

GH:  It's been a while since a Ventura College player signed with UCSB men's basketball.  Is UCSB considered a desirable school to play for, given its close proximity?  Is this possibly the beginning of a pipeline to UCSB?

JR:  Well, this is only my third season coming up at Ventura, so this is a good start.  Personally, I've always been a fan of the Thunderdome, going all the way back to the Carrick DeHart and Eric McArthur era.  And I've always had great respect for Coach David Campbell [UCSB Director of Academic Affairs and Internal Operations].  I myself played at Ventura College before Pepperdine, so I was already familiar with Coach Campbell, who was an assistant at Pepperdine, (along with Coach Williams).

GH:  Coach [Bob] Williams certainly has some ties at Pepperdine too, with [Pepperdine Head Coach] Marty Wilson, [Associate Head Coach] Mark Amaral, and [Graduate Manager] Jon Pastorek, also being former Gaucho assistant coaches or players.

JR:  Yes, I played for Marty Wilson at Pepperdine...the coaching community is close-knit.

GH:  Back to the Gauchos, when UCSB is mentioned in the junior college circuit, what is said?

JR:  As I mentioned, I've had great respect for David Campbell already, and I also gained respect a lot of respect for [UCSB Assistant Coach] Matt Stock.  Like, Coach Williams, Matt was very honest and upfront with what UCSB was looking for from its student-athletes.

GH:  What did you like about how UCSB recruited Zalmico?

JR:  Trust.  I trust they will make sure he makes an impact at UCSB, and that he isn't going to be buried on the bench.  Coach Stock really emphasized academics, which resonated with Zalmico.  You see, Zalmico is very unique.  He not only has an unbelievable work ethic on the court, but he is also very diligent in the classroom.  For instance, he's taking 24 units right now [editor's note: that's six classes].  He sees the big picture, and he takes care of business.  He understands there is life after basketball, and he will do whatever it takes to succeed.  When the UCSB coaches told him he could have a basketball manager feed him passes for extra shots outside of practice, his eyes lit up.  I hear [former Gaucho] Orlando Johnson wore out the managers from all the extra shots he took in practice.

GH:  Zalmico will play right away, possibly taking some playing time away from incumbents.  How was his reception from returning players and his observations on team chemistry?

JR:  Zalmico is not one of those guys who walks around with his nose in the air.  He's only interested in finding a way to make his teammates better.  He's a pass-first point guard--a facilitator, so he will contribute to team chemistry.  He'll embrace and run Coach Williams' system; he wants his teammates to feel good.

GH:  Zalmico is from the Washington, DC area, a region rich with basketball talent.  How did he end up at Ventura?

JR:  Zalmico used our website to research our program.  We've got a winning tradition, and he wanted to be a part of that.  He contacted us.

GH:  Does UCSB have a good reputation for taking care of its student-athletes during and after their playing days as Gauchos?

JR:  This goes back to how Coach Stock recruited Zalmico.  Matt was very aggressive in assessing their needs and the benefits UCSB had to offer to student-athletes, both short- and long-term.  He talked about academics, the business end of it after his playing days are over.

GH:  As you might know, the UCSB class of 2012 has several players playing professionally.  Orlando Johnson is in the NBA with the Pacers, James Nunnally is with the Bakersfield NBDL team, Jaime Serna is in Spain, and reserve Greg Somogyi is in Hungary after being the last player cut by the NBA Lakers.  Did that weigh on Zalmico's decision?  Does the UCSB coaching staff have a reputation for developing future pro players?

JR:  Zalmico sees the big picture.  When he attended UCSB games, he knew right away--he saw right away--how he could contribute to the Gauchos.  Ventura had a player who was most recently Big West Player of the Year, James Ennis.  James was a smart player who also had a high work ethic, and who sacrificed personal stats for the benefit of his team.

GH:  Yes, he's a bonafide NBA prospect who is climbing the mock drafts.

JR:  Some scouts are projecting him to go late in the first round, or early in the second round.

GH:  Where does Zalmico get his toughness from?  I mention it because Coach Williams kept using that word to describe him.

JR:  He probably got that toughness from his father.  He's old school tough.

GH:  What negatives were brought up about UCSB from other schools in their quest to sign Zalmico?

JR:  No negatives were brought up.  As for developing players, UCSB coaches emphasized being held accountable, and PLAYING THE RIGHT WAY.  That means understanding roles and expectations, and executing.

GH:  How tall is Zalmico, 6'1"?

JR:  He's 6'0" and weighs 190 pounds.

GH:  That's pretty solid.  Coach Williams described his daily routine.  It sounds pretty rigorous.  He sounds pretty disciplined.

JR:   People often use that description:  he's mature for his age.  He's still a young man, but he's mature.

GH:  Does he like being called "Z"?

JR:  When he first came here, I called him "Zalmico".  But over time, people just called him "Z".

GH:  What are his strengths?  What are his biggest challenges as he transitions to Div. 1 level competition?

JR:  Aside from what's already mentioned, Zalmico is a keen observer of the game.  He wanted to see first-hand what UCSB needed from the point guard position, so he felt compelled to see as many games as he could, once he decided to attend UCSB.  He's an emotional leader--not emotional in a negative way, screaming and yelling at teammates, but in a very positive way.  In my two years of coaching him, I've never seen him become negative at teammates.  He'll push them, but he's a very positive leader, one who leads by example--because he works so hard and his teammates see that.

He was not very vocal when he first arrived at Ventura, but I told him he needed to become more vocal to bring the best out of his teammates.  He is now a vocal leader as well.

GH:  Coach, Zalmico sounds like a great person as well as a great basketball player.  Thanks for the interview, and good luck next season.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Interview with Coach Bob Williams, May 14, 2013

Gaucho Hoops (GH):  Thanks for taking the interview, Coach.  Can we talk about the three incoming signees?  Let's start with Zalmico Harmon.

Coach Bob Williams (BW):  Zalmico's work ethic is unbelievable.  He'll fit right in with current "Benny's" on the team like John Green.  Other "Benny's" [Benny = basketball nut--a grinder] include (Michael) Bryson, (Kyle) Boswell, Big Al (Williams), Sam (Beeler), Taran (Brown)...

Zalmico has a long history of a high work ethic throughout high school and at Venture College.  He works out and is in the gym 6 hours a day.  I talked with Ventura College Athletics Director [Will Cowen?], and he said when he opens up the gym, Zalmico is there at 6 am performing ball-handling drills and taking extra shots.

Then, he's off to a weight-lifting session, before running more shooting drills, this time in game-type simulations.  In the afternoon, it's regular practice.  At night, he will come in for extra shooting.

Zalmico has the skill set we look for in a point guard.  The biggest thing with him is HE WILL DO WHATEVER HE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN [emphasis Bob's].  He can defend, rebound, pass, score off the dribble, or shoot from the perimeter.  He affects the game in a wide variety of ways.  He has the mindset to be a defensive stopper, and exudes confidence, which is a much-needed piece for our team.

Much like [former Gaucho] Derrick Allen, he is charismatic and physical, although Zalmico had more success at the junior college level.  The big thing with Zalmico is he has a confidence that teammates notice.

At 6'1" and 190 pounds, Zalmico is solid and strong enough to guard either guard position.  After his verbal commitment to UCSB, Zalmico attended about five home games, and observed that UCSB needed some toughness on the perimeter.  He is a student of the game, and will bring that toughness to the team next season.

I also talked with the Ventura Dean of Athletics [Tim Harrison?] and the consensus is Zalmico is a tough kid with leadership qualities.  Coach Joey Ramirez is an up-and-coming coach, a great coach who is demanding, tough, and charismatic.  He gets his teams to execute.

GH:  Let's talk about Alex Hart.

BW:  First off, Alex is long.  He is also surprisingly a good athlete.  He has a very good skill set; he can bounce it, pass it, but most of all, his shooting stroke is unbelievably good for a 6'10" player.  He's only 17, and won't turn 18 until December.  If he were in the US, he'd still be a senior in high school.  You can imagine his improvement will be significant these next few months.  Will he redshirt?  We hope so.  He needs to improve his strength and increase his muscle mass.  He will need to adjust to the speed and physicality of the game [at the Div. 1 level].

GH:  His high school coach Dino Gini told Gaucho Hoops that several schools were after him.  He said he consulted with other coaches, some of whom were former Gaucho players or coaches, and every time UCSB was brought up, the responses were universally positive, and that played a role in his decision to attend UCSB.  Sounds like Alex is a good get.

BW:  Yes, he did receive several offers and we look forward to helping him develop at UCSB.

GH:  Let's talk about Eric Childress.

BW:  Eric is very skilled, and very fundamentally sound.  He's very competitive, a good defender, and a really good passer.  He can also drive the lane.  He was highly recommended by some AAU coaches, and there were some comparisons made to Casper Ware [former Long Beach State and Big West Player of the Year].  At this point, the one thing he lacks is vocal leadership, but that's something he will work on.

GH:  Word has it that most of the players will take Summer Session A off, and return to campus for Summer Session B.

BW:  Yes, they return in August.

GH:  Good, we can revisit the roster later this summer.  Thanks for the interview, Coach.

UCSB Student-Athletes Honored at Golden Eagle Ceremony